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updated 9/17/2011 9:04:01 AM ET 2011-09-17T13:04:01

The young people in the ad look dissatisfied and pouty. Barack Obama's voice and the words "winning the future," from one of his old campaign speeches, echo in the background.

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"You're LOSING my future," says one young man.

The ad — which has aired during sportscasts, reality TV shows and late-night comedy programs popular with younger people — was produced for the College Republican National Committee. It is an attempt to play on the fears that haunt college campuses — fears that they won't find jobs, fears that they'll be living with less than their parents did.

Their fears are, of course, far from exclusive to their generation. But some say the fact that it has taken hold in a voting bloc that helped usher the president into office on a wave of hope and change provides a big opening for Republicans — unless the president can find a way to get them fired up again.

Story: Obama touts jobs bill benefits for small business

They have much at stake. "People are taking out $100,000 in debt and they're graduating next year," says Nick Haschka, a 25-year-old MBA student at Northwestern University.

Haschka voted for Obama in 2008 and remains a strong supporter. "I think he's doing the best he can in these circumstances," he says.

But he knows others have been less patient. And that's been confirmed by recent polls, which show that young voters' support for the president is waning. That's true even on campuses like Northwestern, one of many where Obamamania began to take hold four years ago, when young voters supported the president by a 2-1 margin.

Story: DNC ad campaign to promote Obama jobs plan

"I don't really think he can make a difference now," says Charlotte Frei, a 24-year-old doctoral student at Northwestern who's studying transportation engineering. She voted for the president in 2008 and will probably do so again, though she's not very enthusiastic about it.

Others worry that apathy could cause a lot of young voters to sit this one out.

"It's unfortunate — but I think the last election was an exception," says Aubrey Blanche, a senior at Northwestern who'll soon graduate with a degree in journalism and political science and who, like many others, has "no idea" where she'll get a job.

Young Republicans eye an opportunity
Young Republicans see an opportunity.

Even at the University of Chicago, a short walk from the Obamas' home in Hyde Park, members of the small local chapter of College Republicans are feeling empowered to engage students in conversation as the fall term begins.

"The jobs issue is a major accelerant," says Jacob Rabinowitz, a sophomore who is the group's vice president.

Meanwhile, in a recruiting video, Zach Howell, the outgoing chairman of the national College Republican group, says his party offers "real change" and "hope," playing off the themes of Obama's last campaign.

The group's ads are edgy and catchy — and a good start, says political scientist Richard Niemi.

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"Throwing back a candidate's words at him or her is a tried-and-true method," says Niemi, a professor at the University of Rochester in New York. "But you've got to have the candidate to go with it."

That's where it gets tricky for Republicans, since young voters have traditionally leaned heavily Democratic.

So far, in this race, Ron Paul, a Republican with libertarian leanings, is among those with a small but loyal legion of young followers. Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, also has attempted to make a play for young supporters, calling them "Generation H."

Jacob Engels — a 19-year-old business student at Valencia College in Florida who is a delegate in the Republican straw poll later this month — is a Huntsman supporter. Though Huntsman hasn't made a strong showing in early polls, Engels calls him the "pragmatic choice" because he's less conservative on issues such as the environment and gay marriage.

That would make Huntsman more palatable to his college peers, he says.

"I just don't think you can get away with the Bachmann craziness and the Perry stuff," Engels says of two presidential candidates — Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry — who lean more to the right on social issues.

Story: Obama jobs plan heartens frustrated blacks

Bachmann, a Republican member of Congress from Minnesota, and Perry, the governor of Texas, are, in fact, names that tend to stir up college Democrats — and not necessarily in a good way.

"If Perry ran, I'd definitely vote against him," says Frei, the Northwestern Ph.D student.

Of course, that's good for Obama, says Larry Berman, a political science professor at Georgia State University. But, he says the president also needs to find ways to inspire young people to vote FOR him, not just against his opponent, whoever that turns out to be.

He says the president might, for instance, find a new role for Vice President Joe Biden and choose a new running mate that would appeal more to the younger crowd.

The president also is likely to make more appearances on college campuses, as he did when he recently took his jobs plan to the campus of Ohio State University.

"He can't win Ohio and other key swing states without a dramatic turnout of young voters," Berman says.

Story: Obama's jobs plan paid for? Seems not

Perhaps most important, "I think he's got to fight," Berman says. He suggests a re-election campaign speech like the one President Franklin D. Roosevelt made in 1936 in which he said of his detractors, "I welcome their hatred."

That kind of passion would appeal to college students, among others, he says.

Either way, Meredith Segal, who helped found and run Students for Obama during the last presidential election, says it's far too early to discount young voters.

No, their response to Obama won't be the same as it was in the 2008 campaign, she says.

"Inevitably there is a difference between something that is brand new vs. a known quantity," says Segal, who's 25 and now director of student and family services at a new urban charter school outside Boston. "It's always virtually impossible to recapture the newness and energy of a candidate who is being discovered for the first time."

But she adds: "This generation still has the potential to have a huge impact — not just in the election but on their campuses, in their towns, their cities and their country."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Should Obama’s approval numbers cause a panic?

  1. Closed captioning of: Should Obama’s approval numbers cause a panic?

    >>> you from at lan tarks georgia. there is a death row case bringing global attention. we'll have more on that later in the show. we begin the night with some advice from the obama administration. everybody relax. and obama's senior strategist, david axelrod says, "members of the media have a focused on the president's approval ratings as if they existed in a black box . he points out that republican approval ratings have dropped to a historic low point. meanwhile, only 6% say most of congress deserves re-election. 6%. and worries about the democratic base, then how do you explain 81% of democrats approve, approve now of the president's performance? they are stronger than bill clinton 's standing at this point in his presidency. in fact, president obama himself summed it up last night when he said, "here's one thing i know for certain, the odds of me being re-elected are much higher than the odds of me being elected in the first place." so here's my advice to democrats . now is not the time to abandon your president, not when he needs your support more than ever. not when workings class people need you on your post. not somewhere crying. joining me now is congressman cedric richmond. thanks for coming on the show.

    >> thanks for having me. let me take a point of personal privilege for a second and thank you for what you did for the city of new orleans , which i represent after the storm you were a tireless advocate to make sure that we receive the help and assistance that we finally got. so thank you for that.

    >> thank you so much, congressman. let me say for that, you know because we've been in battles together. i don't like dealing with an army of cowards of people that are afraid to fight. and some democrats , i don't know if they are afraid or uncommitted let me grive you an example. senator mitch mcconnell , look at what he had to say.

    >> the top selling point was that both parties should like him. yet so far the only thing that they seem to agree on is that it's got to be a better way than this. the democratic majority leader treating it like a legislative afterthought. one freshman senator called parts of the bill frustrating and unfair. another democrat called a central part of the bill terrible.

    >> how can we win this jobs bill, congressman richmond? were you a major spokesman for when the congress democratic member of congress rallied on the step the other day. when the leader of the opposition can quote democrats that are pouring cold water on this?

    >> he's taking his quotes in isolation. i will tell you that there are some people who wanted to do more. no one thinks that the president is doing too much. no one thinks it's a bad deal. it's a great comprehensive bill on how to help americans, which means getting people back to work, training those who need training, helping small businesses to hire people, pay people more, but we're doubling down on our energy to fight. i think senator mcconnell and the rest of his group have been obstructionist and the one thing that we're not talking about enough is that this economy was growing. we were moving in the right direction and then one thing happened. the republicans took over the house of representatives and they have been obstructionists ever since and that's what stunted the growth of the economy and i'm just hoping that we can start to talk about that and push this jobs bill because it's very important. but the democrats i'm talking to are very energetic about doubling down and making sure that we get through this because it's the right thing for the country.

    >> let me say this. in the 2010 tea party political movement, how do we get voters out to turn the congress back democrat if we don't stand for something and this jobs bill would -- the president is pushing and which who wouprovide jobs. clearly we have to rally around it.

    >> i think members of congress are going to have to push it and sell it and let people know 25 million people underemployed, they think they know how important it s we are going to have to get out there in the campaign and let people know how important it is. and how ridiculous and one of which is to require offsets and from new orleans with katrina and there's no way in this country where we can cry 911 to the world and if we take our message to the people, they will understand that the choices right now as a president who cares about the country, who wants to help people who are hurting, put people back to work, and another part is playing politics and will allow so many millions of americans to hurt, to not have food on their table. so this election is going to come down to purpose. and i strongly believe that when you're on the right side of the issue and you're doing the right things, that it's going to prevail. and we are going to have to lace up our shoes and take it to them.

    >> that's what i'm saying. and i want you to know, i'm going to start as of tonight, the cry baby here on politics nation and i warn you to come on. i'm going to give you handkerchief to stand in the way of fighting for this jobs bill. thank you, congressman. i'll talk to you about the cry baby because i'll be exposing from time to time on this show. it's the originator of the cry baby theme turning into a caucus on the show, bob shrum , democratic from new york university . he has a great article out today that just said the democrats ' self-defeating crybaby chorus. i'm going to start a list here and and thank you for being with us tonight.

    >> i want one of those handker chiefs.

    >> i'm going to get some tears on that for you.

    >> i think people need if they want to whin and cry, they need to be exposed and put them up and say here is a member of the caucus because when i hear people and have people this is incredible situation if you think about it. the president and the republicans are trying to ruin even further so that they can think that's the road back to power and now you have democrats out there who are sort of sniping at the president, sniping at the people around him and not getting behind him. look, in 19d 82 when ronald reagan was in the midst of a recession, he didn't have republicans criticizing him, supporters saying you're going to do it right. in 2004 , when john kerry moved ahead of george bush in the summer of that year, you didn't have the bush supporters running out on that president. you didn't have him saying dick cheney should be dumped. democrats need to grow up and as my friend, james carville , who is part of this chorus right now would probably say, there is too much at stake, stupid. let's win the election. let's not contribute to losing it.

    >> well, like you said in the article, when they had during the clinton years i flew down here to atlanta, the day we had turbulence, i don't want the guy screaming panic button. we haven't crashed. what's wrong with you. alex , as we look for some names, some people and some quotes all that are being looked upon by me to let's see where they end up may being a crybaby caucus. senator joe mansion said, i have serious questions. really? i have serious ones for you, senator. i think we should break it up, senator bob casey . senator mar senator mary landrieux. alex , what is going on here?

    >> i think they smell blood in the water and the president is weak and 62% how they handle the economy. these numbers are out there. members of the congress they are going to back away from them a little bit. there is industry. landrieux has oil and gas in her backyard. so she's not going to cut subsidies. in the recent hours and days that this has come out, maybe some of that criticism is more overblown and as congress has shown, they will eventually get in line with whatever the president says.

    >> but they are only is one thing that is more startling to me than all of this, is that the people that are polling the lawyers are the people in congress that are talking. they shouldn't be bringing up polls. do you see the numbers in if anything, they should be very quiet and move forward aggressively in an area that would produce jobs and preserve the things that their constituents sent them to washington for.

    >> look, the president has set out a jobs plan that i think he can take to the country and enable him to show that he and the democrats are fighting for hardworking people, out of work time , the middle class . alex is right. you have people -- you have folks in the congress pursing their own parochial. they thought jimmy carter was going to lose and we lost the united states senate . i think it's time for the democrats to say, especially in congress , the president put down a jobs bill. it's a serious piece of legislation. let's stop playing legislative patty cake with it. let's get behind them. this may have to be a hair retrue man campaign -- harry truman case.

    >> when the question was, do you think we would be better off with john mccain and mckab probably would be stronger than any other republicans out there now. look at what the poll numbers said that people comparing whether or not they throughout the country would be better with john mccain , things would be better 29%. about the same, 28%. things would be worse, 35%. this is in the face of all of these questions about president obama 's leadership. if you look at the polls, would president compare to any of the leading republican candidates? he wins. now, what i'm saying is, would the poll numbers clearly behind the president, would every polling organization saying that the american public support the jobs bill in terms of what it stands for, why, if you are on his team, would you start talking about sacking the quarterback and if we're looking at in 1984 , the unemployment rate was 7.2% during election time. president obama will be lucky to have those numbers in 2012 . for that reason, on a certain level you cannot begrudge folks for thinking that there out to be a different solution out there. i think we are in a different time than we were in 2004 .

    >> oh, no, there's no question with the different time. the question is, they are raising questions about a jobs bill, they are raising questions about something that has nothing to do with advancing the time. they arewhining. in the words of the quotable bob strum, they are just crybabies and i'm going to give them all of the exposure that you can handle f you're going to cry, it won't be in a closet. it will be right here on "politics nation." stu and have

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